Service of Apology V

August 3rd, 2020

Categories: Apology, Business Etiquette, Etiquette

I first addressed the subject of apology in 2010 when I covered one by the editor of a student newspaper for publishing an inappropriate cartoon and subsequently when a high school sports coach apologized for a tantrum and later by Whole Foods for overcharging. Then there was a post about those who didn’t or don’t apologize: Donald Trump, Quentin Tarantino and a department store customer service staffer.

I have the opposite problem: I apologize too much. One friend attributes it to my sex, age and maybe upbringing. In his experience women apologize more than men, especially older women. “I’m sorry” pops out of my mouth as automatically as “God bless you” and “thank you.” I need to snap a rubber band on my wrist to stop me. Just today I almost collided with a man coming around a blind corner on the street. Me: “Sorry.” He: silence. Culpability: equal.

I cannot pinpoint the date at which businesses big and small and the people who work for them stopped apologizing–maybe 30 years ago? No apology, never my fault traveled from C-suites to NYC delis at that time. I was once yelled at when I told the cashier I’d not ordered OJ and she insisted that I had while holding out her hand for the additional money. I’d been going there every morning for months and had never ordered juice. Reminding her didn’t elicit an apology.

There is dissent among lawyers as to whether or not to apologize if you’re in an accident. To some it might imply culpability that will be reflected in a crushing settlement. Some insurance lawyers  negotiating settlements find that an apology has impact: the injured person often agrees to a lower settlement. A friend was crossing a Manhattan street with the light when a taxi ran into him. One of the first things he told me was that the driver never once apologized. His lawyer is still negotiating the settlement. If I remember the no apology he also does–as well as the pain in his hip.

Has a stranger apologized to you lately? A business associate or colleague? A friend, family member, spouse or companion? Under what circumstances, if any, do you apologize?

6 Responses to “Service of Apology V”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Actually a now ex friend of mine tried to apologize for making an insulting comment about my husband. We’ve been friends for 45 years. HOWEVER…here’s the thing. I don’t have the forgiveness gene. So the note and the emails mean nothing to me. I realize that’s harsh but it is what it is. She’s not my friend anymore and actually I need to tell my family….i don’t want her at my funeral. Congratulations to people who forgive and forget but I’m not one of you.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Wow Helen–what a powerful comment.

    I try to follow my mother’s advice to “bury the bone but remember where you buried it” but there are exceptions. I don’t think about the people who crossed the line and they only infrequently if ever enter my memory and fortunately, there are few.

    I have read several books written by people interned in concentration camps and whether Jewish or Christian the authors have been able to forgive their captors. I’m not sure I’d be up to that. However, all claim that it’s a relief.

    I hope that in time you can forgive–or at least forget–this person. 45 years is almost a lifetime.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Much depends on what one is forgiving and forgetting. If it’s someone who inadvertently steps on my foot or slams a door in my face, the incident vanishes in an instant. My response to deliberate indignities are toxic, as I see no virtue in those who “forgive” atrocities inflicted on relatives and friends, let alone on one’s person. What’s the purpose? To encourage further harm to society?

    Now what’s the purpose of apologising if one means what one says? There’s too much of that these days, as well as firing people for making “unpopular” statements. As things stand now, free speech is gone, and will remain out of sight until everyone feels free to express themselves without facing the threat of being brought to heel by the PC crowd. Failure to squeak and to grovel after every move/statement one makes will come as a breath of fresh air. Right now, we’re suffocating!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You bring up a pertinent issue at a time fraught with career danger especially for comedians, public speakers, celebrities, spokespeople–anyone with a large following or access to a mic or social media. There’s always someone ready to be insulted about what is said, implied or is left out. Goodness.

  5. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I think I am very much like Jeanne and tend to apologise whether things are my fault or not. I don’t know if is conditioning from my upbringing related to my age and sex and my family experience. Only very late in life after a horrible medical nightmare did I find the my voice or the ability to speak up, and contradict what I perceive as incorrect, unfair or untrue and then not always with ease or without ambivalence.

    During this lock down period I have been extremely irritated by endless waits especially for banking (Bank of America must win a prize for lack of training, organization and competence, and technical assistance). After communicating my dissatisfaction, I often apologize to the individual who may simply not be prepared to handle the assigned task. I also don’t hesitate to make a formal statement of praise to an appropriate supervisor where merited. Dear friends and other grown-ups often insist that harboring anger or not forgiving is more destructive than forgiving and forgetting. I try hard to follow this advice and to forgive and forget although I don’t think I do as well as I should.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Two major corporations tell me I’m not in their systems. When I call one, customer service finds me and I was able to get them to mail bills to me because as my account or other pertinent numbers are rejected by the website, I can’t access my bills online. Customer service at the other has no trace of me and yet the company mails the things I need. I have started a list for “After The Pandemic” and hope that their systems clear up at both places by then and my issues can be resolved.

    If I’m at my wit’s end, I apologize to the voice on the phone telling it that I am not angry at them, and I know that they have nothing to do with x, y or z glitch. But there I go again–apologizing.

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